Tumor markers are substances made by either tumor cells or other types of cells when cancerous (and certain non-cancerous) conditions occur within the body. Recently, researchers have developed testing to screen for the presence of tumor markers within the tissue, blood, and urine of patients who are at risk for cancer. The type of tumor marker to be tested for varies with the type of cancer that is suspected. The presence of tumor markers does not indicate a diagnosis of cancer. It can also indicate non-cancerous conditions. Tumor markers are not always identifiable in patients who have cancer and there are many types of cancer that have not yet been linked to a tumor marker.
In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Mesomark test from Fujirebio Diagnostics to screen for tumor markers involved with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that leads to the buildup of fluid in the lining of the chest or the abdominal cavity. It is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms involved with mesothelioma are similar to those of many other diseases and cancers. Within three years of a mesothelioma diagnosis, only 10 percent of patients are still alive.
The Mesomark test determines the amount of Soluble Mesothelin-Related Peptides (SMRP) in a patient’s serum. Even in the earliest stages of mesothelioma, before the patient has experienced any symptoms, SMRP is present. This test is crucial to the successful identification and treatment of mesothelioma because it can be the starting point for an early diagnosis.
Purpose of Testing
The purpose of testing for these tumor markers is to establish a patient’s need for more specific testing to determine whether the patient does, in fact, have cancer. When tumor markers are found, further tests such as, a MRI, CT scan or biopsy may be recommended. Physicians can use the Mesomark test throughout treatment to find out how aggressive the mesothelioma is and if the therapy used to treat it is effective. The Mesomark test can also be used to screen for any recurrence of mesothelioma after a treatment program has been completed.